Lieutenant Governor to Return $150,000 from Insurance Industry

June 5, 2006

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a Democratic candidate for state insurance commissioner, said he would return $150,000 in campaign donations from insurance companies.

The decision will cut deeply into Bustamante’s campaign treasury — he said last week he had about $338,000 in the bank. However, he faces only token opposition in Tuesday’s primary.

Bustamante has been criticized for taking large contributions from the industry that, if elected, he would be charged with policing.

The lieutenant governor said he was returning the funds because he was troubled by accusations last month by Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, who said a group of insurance companies tried to blackmail him in an effort to scuttle pending auto insurance regulations. Industry officials dispute the claim.

“I was very concerned when I heard about the Garamendi disclosure,” Bustamante said. “It made me wonder if I could be subjected to the same kind of attack.”

Bustamante could not immediately provide a list of the donations or companies involved, but estimated about $150,000 would be returned. Some checks, he said, were sent out last week.

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